Thank you for your tremendous support of Nick’s Organic Farm in Potomac.
The Montgomery County Board of Education voted to lease the 20-acre field for ten years to the County to convert it all into soccer fields.However, they will require the County to extend my lease to January 1, 2012 so that I can complete this 2011 growing season.
The turn-out was both amazing and gratifying given that there were only two full working-days’ notice. The mood of the approximately 50 supporters outside the meeting room was almost festive. Many who came as strangers left having made new friends.
Everyone was wearing some green, and the crowd represented all corners of Montgomery County and several other jurisdictions. Consumers, neighbors, environmentalists, community activists, and local farmers all contributed public comment, organizing effort and their valuable time to help our farm in our time of need.
We are truly humbled and appreciative of the encouragement we received.This show of determination and unity is responsible for the Board’s action to extend our lease for 8 more months.
In my statement (printed below), my only request was for the School Board to hold an open debate with the community before deciding what to do. The Board declined that option. So our community lost.
Many in the community would like to see an organic farm continue on that site. The location is unique because it is far enough away from other fields that our corn and soybean seed production is not contaminated by insect-borne and windborne pollen from conventional farms growing genetically modified (GMO) crops. It is also unique because the soil has been tended using organic methods for more than 30 years, thus allowing the microorganisms and organic matter necessary for healthy soil to build up over time.
The Board vote was not unanimous. The three lawyers who serve as School Board Members raised issues related to the lack of public notice and lack of public process. A vote to delay the action until March 28 to allow more public input was defeated 5-3, with the three lawyers all voting in favor.
The final vote to give permission to lease the land to Montgomery County for soccer fields was 6-2, with only two of the lawyers voting against it. Montgomery County has said that it will, in turn, lease the field to a private athletic organization, such as MSI, to construct and operate the soccer fields.
These events have happened so quickly over the past few days that I have not had a chance to plan what I will do in the future with the farming operations that I now conduct on the Potomac land.
Statement of Nick Maravell before the Montgomery County Board of Education on the Proposed Lease of the Brickyard Road School site, March 8, 2011
I am Nick Maravell and my home borders on the Brickyard school site. I have leased the site from the Montgomery County schools for about 30 years. Traditionally in this County, farmers have been the stewards of these vacant sites with the understanding that they could be reclaimed by the school system at any time for school construction.
While this site is not slated for school construction, I have been informed just a few days ago that I would not be able to renew my lease.So the tradition has been broken.
A new land use is proposed, and not surprisingly the surrounding community has taken an interest. It expects to be informed and consulted, as has been customary in this County.And I would be hard pressed to make the case this process had been undertaken.So the tradition has been broken.
You hold this land in trust for our citizens. You are not to be unduly influenced by private interests or funds, least that fiduciary responsibility be compromised.Right now the County and the schools are under severe budgetary restraint. The temptation to place dollars over the public interest can be debated in many ways, but the debate must take place, with you the trustees—not the County.If it does not, and I submit that it has not, then the trust with the community is broken.
The community interest you see here is an effort to re-kindle that trust.I urge you to take up the challenge.Do not vote to lease this school site to the County with an almost certain outcome assured.Pause.Have a complete and open discussion with the community.How could this hurt the public interest?If you do not value a discussion, then not only are our traditions broken, and our community trust broken, but, indeed, we have lost the very human basis for reconstructing them.